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Published June 14, 2019. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Learn how to make this large round classic French boule recipe using a poolish to leaven the bread for a delicious dark brown crust.
So, I’ve made a sourdough starter (Levain), I’ve used in a Graham Flour recipe, I’ve used a biga as a preferment and now I’m going to make a boule recipe using a poolish. A lot of bread making the past few weeks, but if you’ve ever been interested in baking bread then all of these recipes need to be at the top of your list.
For some reason in the states, you buy a machine and boom out comes a loaf of bread 3 hours later. I’m here to tell you that is not bread making and not how it was intended to be made. Making delicious bread takes time and love. Do you think they’re using bread makers at a bakeshop? I don’t think so. If you don’t have 28 hours to wait for bread, maybe you can wait for 18 with this French boule recipe using a poolish.
What Is a Boule
A French boule is an incredibly old recipe for a large bread recipe that appears as a flattened ball. It can range in sizes but mostly it’s on the bigger side of homemade bread. A boule can be made with all sorts of leavening agents whether that be a levain, a pre-ferment or yeast as well as different flours. The reason a French bakery is called the boulangerie is well, because of the boule.
If you’ve ever seen movies that are based in medieval times or all the way bake to BC days and you see people carrying around big loaves of bread, then you’ve seen a boule before.
Making a Poolish
A poolish, similar to that of the Italian biga, is a preferment. You use 50% of your total flour and 62% to 65% of your total hydration mixed with a small amount of yeast and then let it ferment for 10 to 24 hours.
The difference between a poolish and a big is that a poolish uses higher hydration during the pre-fermentation process which really brings out some strong alcohol odors and really complex flavors. While a poolish isn’t a full fermentation like a levain, the gluten is still broken down and good bacteria is being formed. A poolish can be used in just about any of your bread baking recipes.
Making a Boule With Poolish
1. Mix together 50% of the total flour with 62% of the total water at 80° to 82° and a small amount of yeast in a large container until completely combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours. The longer sits the more intense the aroma and flavor.
2. In a separate large container mix together the remaining flours, salt, yeast. Pour the water at 105° to 107° into the container with poolish to help loosen it up and then pour all of it into the container with the flour, salt, and yeast and vigorously mix by squeezing and folding until combined, mix for about 3 to 4 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
3. Fold the dough by stretching and turning 6 to 8 times every 20 minutes for 60 minutes. Cover and rest for 2 hours.
4. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and form it into a medium-tight ball and then transfer it to a heavily floured bread proofing basket. Dust the top of the dough with flour and cover and proof for 60 to 90 minutes.
5. Preheat a baking stone in the oven to 500° and let sit for 30 minutes to ensure it is hot.
6. Invert the bread right onto the hot stone. Score with a blade if desired, however, it is not necessary. Cover with a large metal bowl. If you do not have a large metal bowl then add 10-15 ice cubes to a casserole pan and put it on the bottom rack of the oven that you are baking in.
7. Bake the bread at 500° for 30 minutes covered and then uncover and cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes
8. Cool the dough on a rack for at least 30 minutes.
Chef Recipes Notes + Tips
Storing and Freezing: If this bread isn’t gone the first day, I cut it into fourths and place them in plastic zip bags. In addition, this bread freezes and thaws great so if you can’t eat it then the freezer it is!
This classic French boule bread recipe uses a poolish pre-ferment, the bread contains a higher acidity level allowing it to last for up to 10 days.
More Amazing Bread Recipes
- Homemade Pita Bread Recipe
- Homemade White Bread
- Country Artisan Loaf
- Kamut Flour Bread with Biga
Classic French Boule Recipe with Poolish
- 650 grams of Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour
- 500 grams of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour
- 858 grams of water
- 24 grams of sea salt
- 4.5 grams of active yeast
- In a large container mix together 550 grams of bread flour with 550 grams of water at 80° to 82° and .5 grams of yeast until combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours or until tripled in size.
- In a separate large container mix together the remaining 100 grams of bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, remaining 4 grams of yeast.
- Add the remaining 308 grams of water at 105° to 107° to the container with the poolish to help loosen it up.
- Add the poolish and water mixture to the container with the flour, salt, and yeast and vigorously mix it by squeezing, stretching and folding until completely mixed in, about 3 to 4 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Fold the dough by stretching and turning it 6 to 8 times every 20 minutes for 60 minutes.
- Cover and let rest for 2 more hours or until it has tripled in size.
- Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface dusted with flour and form it into a medium tight ball. Move the dough to a floured proofing basket, cover with a towel and let proof for 60 to 90 minutes.
- Place a pizza stone into the oven and preheat to 500° and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Invert the dough directly onto the stone, score, cover with a large metal bowl and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the outside of the bread is dark brown.
- 1Set on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
- 1Slice and serve.
- The longer the poolish sits the more intense the aroma and flavor.
- If you do not have a large metal bowl then add 10-15 ice cubes to a casserole pan and put it on the bottom rack of the oven that you are baking in.
- This classic French boule bread recipe uses a poolish pre-ferment, the bread contains a higher acidity level allowing it to last for up to 10 days.
- In France they let the bread sit for an entire 24 hours before slicing and serving.
- Poolish works great when making baguettes or even pizza dough